Ouida Johnson has built a legacy out of her love for little children. Now, after 42 years as director of The Children’s Center of First Community Church, Ouida is ready to retire. Her shoes will not be easy to fill — she is only the second director the school has had since it was established in 1952. “We now have children of children here,” says Ouida.

Ouida began her career with The Children’s Center in 1957 as a teacher. She taught for 14 years before being named director. Ouida says she has focused her efforts to create a school of excellence for small children where character development is emphasized. “Our goal is to create a happy, loving atmosphere for little children,” Ouida explains, “a place where they can ask questions, experience God’s world, and be motivated to the joy of learning.”

Ouida says she has seen a definite change in children over the years. “We have tried to meet these changes by adapting our programs. For example, children have become far more sedentary as a result of computers and television. We have seen a definite reduction in motor skills development.” To combat this problem, Ouida added a Body Rhythmics program to the curriculum.

Despite the changes, some things will always be the same. Kids still want to play and have fun, and Ouida believes children should be allowed to be children. “Our approach to learning is through play,” she explains. “It is through play that children learn to try new things, to take turns, and to share.”

Ouida’s energy and enthusiasm will be missed at the Children’s Center, but she feels confident that the school will continue its tradition of excellence in early childhood education. “The Children’s Center has been a joy to me for 42 years,” says Ouida. It is clear she has given much of that joy back to the school.

The Children’s Center will hold a reception on May 16 to honor Ouida Johnson. All Children’s Center alumni who are still in the area are invited to attend. For details about the reception call 214-327-0905.

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